Despite sterling academic credentials, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman has been unabashed in his embrace of a career pop psychology. (“‘I’m rich,’ I announced to my mother on the phone.”)
Seligman might be best known for PERMA, his acronym for summarizing the elements that, according to a body of psychological research, correlate with a happy life.
The buckets are as follows:
- Positive emotions: feeling good
- Engagement: finding flow states
- Relationships: making authentic connections
- Meaning: having purpose
- Achievement: feeling a sense of accomplishment
I’m not totally sold on this framework as a one size fits all guide to living well. For one, it has nothing to say regarding health and fitness, widely acknowledged to have an enormous impact on our mental health and happiness.
But the model does seem to be grounded in a fairly robust body of psychological research. And I have found it useful as a framework for quick check-ins regarding one’s current lifestyle.
It can even serve as a simple short-term planning tool. What activities can I undertake today that will help me to feel good in the moment? To get into a state of flow? To connect with family and friends? To make progress on my life’s mission? To get some wins under my belt?
Such an approach seems likely to yield a pretty good day, week, month, year and beyond.